Teenager on bed experiencing cyberbullying

Social nightmares: online bullying and teenagers

We live in a world where everything we interact with – from news, people, entertainment and much more – is done so with the help of the internet and technology.

In fact, Australians spend just over six hours on the internet each and every day, with social media making up just under two ours of that time.

Unfortunately, not everyone who uses the internet is responsible, or does so with the best intentions, something that’s a real problem.

According to a report released by the eSafety Commissioner in 2021, 44% of young Australians report having a negative online experience.

Of these young people, 15% said they had received threats or abuse online, whilst other negative experiences included being excluded from social groups.

Let’s talk about all aspects of online bullying. From defining what online bullying is, to the different types of online bullying, to mental health support for teenagers experiencing online bullying, we’ve got you covered.

What is online bullying?

Online bullying, also known as cyberbullying, is a form of bullying where someone causes harm or distress using technology, such as phones, computers or tablets.

Although online bullying takes place on the internet, such as on social media websites, it can take place without the internet, such as through text messages.

Online bullying doesn’t discriminate. Even though it is most common between young people, it can and does happen to adults, regardless of age.

Is there only one type of online bullying?

You might think that online bullying is one dimensional, and it just involves someone sending a nasty or upsetting messages to someone else online.

However, things aren’t that simple. The reality is that online bullying has many forms, and different types of online bullying can cause a range of negative emotions and seriously affect a person’s wellbeing.

Here are some of the common types of online bullying:


With exclusion, the bully will intentionally leave someone out of an online group or message thread, leaving the victim feeling lonely.


Trolling is internet slang for a person who intentionally starts arguments or upsets others by posting inflammatory remarks, often making the victim feeling angry or hurt.


Outing occurs when a bully reveals personal information without the victims consent, often in the hope of making the victim feel embarrassed.


Cyberstalking is when the bully persistently harasses or stalks another person online, often in the form of e-mails, texts and social media posts.


Harassment takes place when the bully sends repeated, hurtful online messages to the victim. These messages often contain threats.

Who is most at risk of online bullying?

Anyone can be at risk of online bullying, regardless of your age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background or anything else for that matter.

Unfortunately, there are some common aspects of the victims that often repeat themselves. Verywellmind has put together a list of some of these characteristics.

These include:

  • Teenagers and young adults
  • People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender may be victims more often
  • Those who are shy, socially awkward or don’t fit in easily
  • People from lower-income households
  • People who use the internet constantly
  • With false rumours and receiving explicit images, girls are more like to be the victims

What are the effects of online bullying?

The effects of online bullying can be very real and very traumatic, so it’s important to make sure you’re looking after health and wellbeing.

Some of the most common effects include physical and psychological problems that can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual.

Physical effects can include suffering from headaches, stomach aches and problems sleeping – both sleep quality and duration.

Meanwhile, online bullying can also lead to anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts, so it’s important to watch out for the symptoms of these.

What can you do?

Before you do anything, it can be good to talk to someone about online bullying to let them know what has been happening. That can mean somebody you know or a service that specialises in mental health support for teenagers.

If you’re a child or a young person, this could be talking to your parents or another trusted adult. If you’re an adult, this could be talking to a friend or partner.

After this, you may want to change your settings on your device or whatever platform you’re receiving harmful content on, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Turning off notifications or blocking someone will make sure you don’t receive any more comments or messages, or at the very least, stop you from seeing them.

After this, it’s a good idea to report it. This can be to the social media site, gaming site, or any other app that has been used to send, post or share the content.

Most sites have straightforward procedures for reporting harmful content, but if you can’t locate the report button, find out how with The e-Safety Guide.

If you’re struggling to report the content on the site itself, try reporting it through the e-Safety Commissioner, Australia’s regulator for online safety.

e-Safety also has fantastic resources that can help you take pro-active steps to make sure you stay safe and free from harmful content online.

Remember, don’t hesitate to call 000 if someone has threatened you online and you feel that you’re in immediate danger.

Need to talk to someone?

Mental health support for teenagers experiencing online bullying

If you want talk to one of the Access Psych team, take a look at our team of registered and provisional psychologists which includes youth psychologists and psychologists for young adults.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about Access Psych and what else we can do for you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

When you’re ready, you can book an appointment online, speak to one of our friendly team on 1800 277 924 or email info@accesspsych.com.au.


The information provided in this document is general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.

The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional.  You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in this document.